Finding the Best VPN for China is not always easy – here’s what you need to know to find a VPN service that works in China.
A number of reliable VPN providers cater to the Chinese market and have done so for years. However, some China VPN providers have fared better than others dealing with the recent crackdown and improvements made to the Great Firewall of China (“GFoC”) aka the Golden Shield. ExpressVPN is the clear choice for China.
The second half of this article discusses the factors you should consider when choosing a VPN for China; immediately below, are our own recommendations when applying those criteria.
Top Tip – Because things can change quickly in the China VPN landscape, you may not want to sign up for a longer-term contract. That being said, you can get some excellent discounts when you sign up for longer subscriptions, and VPNs have many uses.
[+] 'Best China VPN' contents (select to expand)
Why ExpressVPN is the Best China VPN
ExpressVPN features GFoC busting “stealth servers” located in Hong Kong, which are specifically designed to evade China’s blocking efforts.
ExpressVPN is admittedly expensive but also has the most generous “hassle free” money-back guarantee in the business, at 30 days.
ExpressVPN’s main website is blocked in China but their alternate site is not yet blocked in China. (If you're in China, clicking on the ExpressVPN link should automatically take you to their alternate website in China.)
If not, keep trying or reach out to them at support[at]expressvpn[dot]zendesk[dot]com for their latest alternate website address.)
You're covered by a full 30-day money-back hassle-free guarantee.
VyprVPN Works in China Too (Verified)
In the latest rounds of China blocking VPNs, VyprVPN's engineers were able to get all major sites unblocked within 3.5 hours and all other sites unblocked within 5 hours. Most other VPN providers are still struggling to restore their services in China.
VyprVPN has been playing cat and mouse with the Chinese authorities and winning for over 8 years, and that experience shows.
But don't just take our word for it. Greatfire.org agrees with us. They are a non-profit organization committed to helping Chinese users circumvent the Great Firewall of China and access websites blocked in China by monitoring and reporting on censored websites in China.
VyprVPN came out on top of Greatfire’s tests. The detailed test results for VyprVPN, as well as instructions for installing it, can be found on Greatfire’s website (see screenshot) at https://cc.greatfire.org/zh/provider/VyprVPN - English version at https://cc.greatfire.org/en/provider/VyprVPN
VyprVPN is able to bypass the Great Firewall of China by using its very own proprietary VPN Protocol called Chameleon.
Vypr's Chameleon protocol scrambles OpenVPN packet metadata to ensure it’s not recognizable by deep packet inspection (DPI), while retaining OpenVPN’s unmodified 256-bit data encryption. The result: a fast and lightweight VPN protocol that can bypass even the Great Firewall of China’s intensive methods.
You can enjoy access to an open Internet now and see why VyprVPN is considered the best China VPN by Greatfire.org and Cogipas.com. Remember, Greatfire is an independent non-profit organization, and their tests clearly show that VyprVPN is the best VPN for China.
Get it today! Our readers can enjoy an additional discount off VyprVPN’s already affordable prices.
alternate link (for visitors already in China) »
VyprVPN's no-risk 30-day money-back guarantee means you can buy with confidence.
Other Top China VPN Choices
Although ExpressVPN and VyrVPN are the best choices, they are not your only ones. Here are a few more VPNs that work in China:
PureVPN has a 7-day money-back guarantee which is enough time to see if it’s right for you.
At the time of writing, PureVPN’s secure website using https:// is NOT blocked in China (see screenshot).
Figure: PureVPN's secure website is not blocked in China (select to enlarge)
Figure: PureVPN's secure website is not blocked in China (select to enlarge)
TorGuard VPN implements a version of the OpenVPN protocol that can evade the Great Firewall of China – for details see https://torguard.net/blog/the-best-vpn-for-china-torguard/.
The TorGuard website is blocked on-and-off in China, so you might be able to sign up and download the necessary software even while in China.
TorGuard offers a no questions asked 7-day money-back guarantee. [BTW, the “Tor” in TorGuard is not to be confused with The Onion Router.]
How to Choose a VPN for China
Make sure the VPN expressly caters to mainland Chinese users. If you don’t see claims that make this clear, keep looking. Different VPNs use their own terminology for technologies that can bypass the GFoC – stealth, cloak, obfuscation, etc – but the bottom line is that they will thwart the deep packet inspection utilized by the Chinese authorities.
Top Tip – Although this post is oriented to China, the factors below and recommendations above are also relevant for users in places like Iran, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Pakistan, Oman and countries in Central Asia.
Some VPN providers may offer a tailored “China-configured” app, but most will simply allow you to choose settings in their normal app. When choosing settings for VPN use inside China, maximize your protection:
- use the protocols SSTP (which “blends in” with https traffic to avoid detection) or OpenVPN (safe but rarely works)
- use at least 256-bit levels of encryption (don’t use 128-bit or lower)
Be Wary of Free China VPNs
Be wary of anyone touting a free China VPN.
We all love free, but it takes a significant investment of effort and technology to overcome China’s blocking apparatus. As a result, be distrustful and skeptical of free services.
Take it as a good sign that you to have to pay for a fully functional China VPN, as these providers have an incentive to keep their tools working and your online activities safe. VPN use is exploding in popularity in China and the VPN providers that “get it right” stand to gain considerably.
- see our post ‘Why using a Free VPN is a Bad idea’
Plus, it was recently reported by ZDnet that, “roughly 60 percent of the top free mobile VPN apps returned by Google Play Store and Apple Play Store searches are from developers based in China or with Chinese ownership, raising serious concerns about data privacy.”
In other words, better to stick with the premium VPN services above which are developed and maintained outside the influence of Chinese authorities.
Server Locations of the China VPN
Look for a VPN with proxy servers located in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, and West Coast USA (San Francisco/California) or West Coast Canada (Vancouver/British Columbia). This is important for having decent speeds and a good user experience when hooked up to the VPN.
Sign-Up & Payment
Ideally, the VPN’s website won’t be blocked in China. This means you can access the VPN’s website directly to sign up, pay and download the necessary VPN software.
If the VPN you are interested in is blocked in China, try using Tor Browser or sign up the next time you are travelling abroad. If Tor browser is blocked from your location in China, try it with the obfsproxy plugin (now included and part of the official Tor Browser packages). You could also try the Japan-based, volunteer VPN network VPN gate (Chinese version). Other times, it may even be possible to contact the VPN provider by email to complete some of the signup steps.
Also, choose a VPN with a money-back guarantee. No matter how much research you do, ultimately you simply have to select one and try it out. If, for whatever reason the VPN does not work for you (see ‘warning’ below), ask for a refund: no harm done.
Advanced VPN Features
Although not essential, consider as a bonus when a VPN supports features such as a VPN kill switch and DNS leak protection.
Note: All of the VPNs recommended in this article, including ExpressVPN and VyprVPN, have these features.
Top Tip – On that note, when trying out the VPN, don’t immediately access controversial websites! Go slow and progressively visit sites that are increasingly likely to be censored.
If (but only if) your activities warrant a heightened level of protection (for example, a dissident), consider running your VPN over Tor or running one VPN over top of another (“double VPN”).
- see our post ‘How to Make a VPN Even More Secure’
Word of Warning!
We need to end on a note of warning.
We are not claiming any method here will achieve 100% success; no one can claim that and if they do, run the other way. The GFoC is a multi-headed monster... and an unpredictable one.
Methods that work today may not work tomorrow. Even more frustrating is that a method may work in one part of China but may not work in a different part of the country, owing to the GFoC’s inconsistent implementation.
Best China VPN: Final Thoughts
Whether you live in China, travel there for business, or will visit soon, you'll need a VPN if you want to enjoy many of the websites and online features that most of us take for granted.
We won’t lie: finding the right China-friendly VPN for your needs will take a little extra work.
ExpressVPN and VyprVPN (alternate link) are great choices, as they have been getting around Chinese blocking for years. Plus, you can try each of them with no-risk. If it doesn't work, simply take advantage of their money-back guarantees to get a refund.
Good luck! / 祝你好运！/ Zhù nǐ hǎo yùn!